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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Of smelt and smolts: I had two fish and one smelt. OK, it’s an old and very juvenile joke. But controversy over California’s Delta smelt has been no laughing matter and remains a focus of the state’s water wars.

For years, Central Valley farmers have fought for more water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta to irrigate their parched lands. Conservationists have maintained the threatened smelt need that water more.

Let us offer a solution that should please nearly everybody:

Eradicate the striped bass.

This voracious species was intentionally introduced to California from Atlantic waters in 1879. It grows to prodigious size (the state sport fishing record is over 67 pounds) and will eat anything that moves – or doesn’t move, for that matter. Delta smelt are the perfect striper snack.

To save the smelt – and a lot of salmon and steelhead fingerlings (AKA smolts) – California should extirpate the exotic and environmentally destructive bass through the simple expedient of eliminating size and bag limits.

This should make the conservationists happy, because it will save a threatened species.

Folks who fish for dinner will happy because they won’t have to throw back every striper under 16 inches or limit their take to three fish.

The smelt will attain such happiness as is ichthyologically possible.

The smolts will be similarly happy, because they’ll have to dodge fewer bass as they migrate to the ocean.

Farmers will be happy because they’ll get the water they need to grow and sell more produce.

Consumers will be happy find more California fruits, nuts and vegetables in the markets. In fact, the whole nation will be happy as the Golden State “bread basket” turns out more comestibles.

Illegal aliens will be happy because there will be more stoop-labor jobs on California farms.

Market fishermen will be happy because there will be more salmon in the sea.

Of course, members of the sport fishing fraternity will yowl as if they had sat on a treble hook.

Well, yeah, but no plan is perfect.


Just what are the movie ratings folks up to with their new disclaimer for film trailers?

It says: “The following preview has been approved for appropriate audiences.”

Well, yeah. And the film previewed also must be approved for “appropriate audiences,” so why not say which audience is appropriate? As it is, the disclaimer deserves a place of honor in the annals of meaningless blather. Consider the following dialog:

Irate parent: I took little Kinsley to see “Heidi and the Naked Mole Rats,” and before the cartoon feature there was a series of horrifying movie previews. My baby was so upset!

Preview official: Didn’t the previews say they were OK for “appropriate audiences”?

Irate parent: Well, yes, but …

Preview rater: Little Kinsley clearly was not the appropriate audience. You should be ashamed of yourself! Letting a child watch that!

Irate parent: But how was I to know?

Preview rater: That’s your responsibility.

It’s genius, really, and would be the best prevarication of early 2011 if it weren’t for:

The Nunez commutation: Arnold Schwarzenegger paused on the way out the door of California’s gubernatorial suite (unlike the Terminator, he won’t be baaack) to commute the 16-year prison sentence of Esteban Nunez.

By way of explanation, the gov said the poor lad had been given too stiff a sentence for engaging in the fight in which he stabbed one victim while his homeboy knifed and killed another.

Does it overstress credulity to suggest the governor would have done the same for any 21-year-old gang-banger from East Los Angeles whose father wasn’t former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Well, yeah.

Pundits are saying the Republican Schwarzenegger’s action was payback, because Democrat Fabian Nunez pushed the gov’s environmental legislation. However, I think the action reflects a reality of Capitol culture.

It puts me in mind of an election in which a slippery politician was ousted by the voters. My publisher at the time said of the loser, “That’s too bad. He’s a nice guy.” And so he was. All politicians are nice guys. It’s a prerequisite for election. They are charming and folks like them, but the people to whom politicians are nicest are other politicians.

Elected officials – regardless of party – become buddies as members of a very exclusive club. They take care of one another. Certainly Schwarzenegger was grateful to the elder Nunez for carrying legislative water for him, but I’d wager Arnold thought, “Fabian’s a nice guy. I’ll cut his son a break.”

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